Euro 2020 Final Preview

I’ll try to be as brief and to the point as I can here, but it’s difficult not to feel nervous/excited about today.

I was alive in 1966, but I have no memory of it – I was two years and six days old and my mum and my grandmother had to take me to the local shops because I think I was probably interrupting my dad and my grandad’s viewing. I say probably, I’ll go with ‘definitely’ 🙂

Since 1985 we’ve played the Italians three times at Wembley and we’ve won none of those encounters. The last time we beat them there was way back in November 1977 in a World Cup qualifier, which was almost irrelevant: we’d already last in Rome the year before, which brings back a memory of about sixty of us schoolkids waiting outside the PE block for one of the teachers to tell us the score. It was a lunchtime kick off in Italy and finished 2-0; yet another England disappointment from the Seventies.

I think I mentioned in the original preview that the hosts haven’t won the Euros since France did it in 1984; Italy won ‘their’ tournament in 1968 but that was when it was semi finals/final only rather than group stages. Regardless of format, that’s still a long time ago, but it’s important to remember that England aren’t the official hosts for this tournament, despite the location of the final.


In this tournament, the Italians have been somewhat slow starters when it comes to goals, having notched none in the first 15 minutes so far. They have a tendency to wake up immediately before and immediately after half time: 40% of their goals scored with 90 minutes have been between the 31st and 60th minute, including both in the game against Belgium.

Defensively, they have faltered as they’ve played better sides as the tournament has continued: three goals isn’t really a sample size that’s representative enough, but two of those goals have been at the end of each half. That may or may not be significant.

I’ll take my hat off to Roberto Mancini, he certainly seems to have mastered the art of using his five (still seems weird writing that) substitutions in both the tactical and strategic senses. However, it remains to be seen how well his team holds up if they go behind: they haven’t been in that position since Edin Dzeko scored for Bosnia/Herzegovina in Firenze in a Nation’s League game last September.


One of the possible advantages we have is that we have started well at the start of both halves: 50% of our goals have come in the first 15 minutes of each half, even though all of those came in one game (Ukraine in the quarter final). We’ve scored two in the last 15 minutes of each half but – and this is a strange thing to say – our defensive prowess is arguably better than it has been for years: we’ve only conceded once in the entire tournament – Martin Damsgaard’s cracking free kick last week. That’s been the only time we’ve gone behind in Euro 2020.

I don’t think there’ll be many surprises in the starting lineup, but considering some of the subs benches we’ve had in the past, we’ve got depth to die for this time round – especially in attacking terms. I’m not sure how long Jack Grealish will get today though 🙂


Four of the last five European Championship finals have been settled by a margin of one goal – the exception was when Spain battered Italy 4-0 nine years ago – but only two of those games went beyond 90 minutes. The 2000 final was settled by a Golden Goal by David Trezeguet and Portugal won the last series in extra time. However, only *one* of those last finals featured a goal by both teams, which I think may change this evening as we’re as capable of unlocking their defence as they are with hours.

I’m going to leave it there as I need to fill the fridge with beer and the BBC coverage is about to start. There will be an update after the game.

It just might not make sense.

Update: same shit, different tournament. Next game: World Cup qualifier in Budapest on September 2nd.

Euro 2020 Semi Final Preview

So here we are then. Three years after reaching the semi final of a World Cup for the first time since 1966, we’re in the semi finals of the Euros for the first time since 1996.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to sound a note of caution though. Including the clash in September 1979 – so long ago I was a teenager – there have been seven games between us and the Danes at Wembley. We’ve won five of the seven clashes but lost the most recent clash (last November in the Nations League – a pretty eventful game) but the goal statistics are astonishing: we’ve never scored more than one goal against them at Wembley, all seven matches have finished 1-0. The last team we beat Denmark at Wembley was in March 2014 when Messers Henderson, Sterling and Shaw all played, with Luke Shaw entering the fray as a substitute for Ashley Cole – who never played for England again.


All the stats in this section cover their last ten games ie including their 2-0 win over Israel in the World Cup qualifiers in March until the win over the Czechs in the quarter finals.

By now everyone should be aware of what happened to Christian Eriksen in their first game in the Euros and it’ll be argued that losing arguably their best player in such extreme circumstances is what caused the Danes to lose their first two games. However, the nature of their momentum since then seems to indicate that they may not have needed him: that seems like a harsh position to take, but I don’t think anyone apart from the Danes themselves thought they’d do as well as this before the competition started.

However, one aspect of history is very much against them. Since the tournament introduced a group stage in 1980, no team that eventually reached the final began it with two defeats – even the supposedly underprepared Danish team that won Euro 1992 only lost once, a defeat in the group stages by their Swedish hosts. The defeats to Finland and Belgium have been their only losses in the ten game period mentioned above.

Of the five clean sheets the Danes have kept in their last ten outings, only one has come in Euro 2020 – against a toothless and indisciplined Welsh side in the Round of 16. However the Danes have scored in their nine of their last ten games, clearly have scoring potential throughout the team and will arguably be our first real defensive test of the tournament: Kasper Dollberg has scored all of his three goals in the last two games and if we’re to maintain a record of not conceding a goal in this tournament so far we need to recognise the danger.

The Danes may also be our first real offensive test of Euro 2020. In their last ten games they’ve not conceded a first half goal at all, but they appear to be vulnerable at the start of the second half – Finland, Belgium and Denmark all found the back of the net within fifteen minutes of the restart and we’ve already scored three in that period, including two of the four goals in the trashing of Ukraine last weekend.


My wife will tell you that I was far from impressed with the first half against Ukraine: simply put, we should have been 2-0 up. However the two quick goals at the start of the second half more or less shut me up for the rest of the game – although I did managed some cider fuelled insights for the last half an hour. What does seem to be happening with England though is that slowish starts are becoming more common: over our last ten games we only scored seven goals in the first half as opposed to 12 in the second. With specific regard to the games in Euro 2020, those figures are two (first half) and six (second half), but if you slice those numbers another way, we’ve scored five times in the first fifteen minutes of either half during the Euros…so we need to be out of the blocks quickly this evening.

So in conclusion…

It’s absolutely impossible for me to be objective about this game, but I will try to do it. Home advantage is going to count for a lot but I think this is going to be a lot closer than Saturday’s game. If England turn in another solid defensive performance then we should be fine, but if it ends goalless after 90 minutes…well let’s not go there shall we?

Update: it’s nearly midnight. We’re in a major final again after 55 years and that was the result of two goals scored by Danish players and a rebound from a penalty that – depending on your affiliation – could be perceived as being a bit harsh. But none of that matters for now does it.

Germany Preview Part 2: Kane Unable?

I had hoped to have this part up on Monday evening, but then two classic games of football broke out 🙂

Considering that the Czechs beat the Dutch on Sunday and Croatia put three past Spain in a valiant losing effort yesterday, I think we can be pleased with having beaten both of them without conceding a goal. I know group stage games are usually more about jockeying for position than anything else – unless of course you’re Scottish, when earning a point and scoring precisely one goal is seen as a national triumph – but nonetheless our results in Group D don’t look half as shabby as the pundits would have had you believe a couple of weeks ago.

The big problem I can see for England this evening is that although we’ve gone nine games without losing and have kept eight clean sheets whilst doing so, we haven’t scored more than one goal against the opposition since battering San Marino in March. Harry Kane hasn’t scored in any of the last five and hasn’t scored for England from open play since notching against Albania in March.

I wonder if it’s time for Gareth Southgate to consider other options upfront, because the downside of another game in which Kane fails to make an impression might mean yet another defeat by Germany. It’s not like we’ve never been in this situation before. I mentioned to a friend during the game against the Czechs that Alf Ramsey had to make changes when Jimmy Greaves was injured before the 1966 Quarter Final against Argentina; considering that Dominic Calvert-Lewin have scored as many goals as Kane in the last ten I wonder if the Everton striker deserves a chance in a big game in the same way Geoff Hurst did when he replaced Greaves. However, replacing Kane would mean choosing another captain: Jordan Henderson would be the obvious choice.

Additionally, Kane is the only player to have appeared in eight of the last ten games but he’s only completed three of those matches. For someone who expressed a desire to leave Spurs, he’s not done a particularly good job of advertising himself to other clubs: I wonder if this is one of the stories that develops after the tournament finishes – possibly along the line of he’s been playing with an injury since February, needs off season surgery etc. It’s all very well being loyal to players who aren’t having a great run of form, but that can often have a detrimental effect on other team members: Southgate gets paid a fair whack for this job and needs to be able to take difficult decisions.

That being said, despite obvious experimentation before the tournament, Southgate has been pretty consistent with his team selection during this tournament with ten players having started at least two of the three games. Mason Mount‘s enforced isolation after Billy Gilmour’s positive Covid test after the Scotland match was the reason why Buyako Saka was selected against the Czechs – and Mount is going to find it difficult to get his place back after the teenaged Arsenal midfielder had such a good game. The only other issues I can see are if Harry Maguire keeps his place in defence or not, if Phil Foden starts – that’s not guaranteed – and who Marcus Rashford will replace.

Having such a good defence presents an analytical problem. As we’ve only conceded three goals in the last ten games, it’s almost impossible to present a case for when England are most likely to conceed a goal – although the two goals Belgium scored in the Nations League defeat last November were both before 30 minutes had elapsed. Offensively, it’s far clearer: half of England’s first half goals in the last ten games have been scored between the 16th and 30th minute with 44% of our second half goals being scored in the final fourteen minutes – if you read part one of this preview, you’ll know that’s significant as that’s exactly when Germany are vulnerable.

In context of other six round of 16 games, four were eventually won by the team ranked higher in the most recent FIFA rankings – good news for England, who are currently 77 points ahead of Germany, which is about the same as the difference between us and Croatia in our first game of the tournament. Half of the games in this round so far have gone to extra time with an average of 3.16 goals per game scored in 90 minutes but possibly the most significant factor is that tonight’s game is the only Round of 16 match where one of the participants has home advantage. So far only 50% of games where one side had home advantage have been won by the hosts, but 41% of the remaining matches finished all square.

It’s tough to be objective considering the amount of history between the two countries – football or otherwise – especially when your first memories of supporting England are based the first time we ever lost to West Germany in a home game (1-3, Euro 72 Quarter Final, April 29th 1972 – it was 1-1 with seven minutes left!). However, as I wrote in the first part of this preview, this is not a vintage German team by any measure and this afternoon’s game is a good chance to finally earn a first win over Germany in England since December 1935.

I just hope it doesn’t go to bloody penalties again.

Germany Preview Part 1

Let’s start with a fact that I’ve not seen anywhere else. Yet.

We have never beaten Germany at Wembley since their re-unification in 1991. The record since then includes four defeats in six games and a goal difference of -4, with the Germans scoring in every single encounter we’ve had since the Berlin Wall came down.

In fact, the only time we’ve ever beaten Germany on English soil was in December 1935:

Germany had been beaten semi finalists in the 1934 World Cup but the team that arrived in London almost eighteen months later contained only four players that went on to feature in their suprise 2-0 defeat quarter final by Norway in the Berlin Olympics a few months later. Despite their amateur status, Reinhold Munzenberg, Ludwig Goldbrunner and Ernst Lehner are still widely acknowledged as being German footballing legends. The fourth – midfielder Rudi Gramlich – was eventually honoured as a Vice President by his club Eintracht Frankfurt, but that title was stripped posthumously at the start of 2020 when researchers discovered Gramlich had been a member of the SS and an active Nazi.

To put that result into perspective, Eddie Hapgood, Stanley Matthews, Raich Carter, George Camsell and Cliff Bastin were in the England team; Camsell – who scored twice in a comfortable 3-0 win – still holds the highest goals to games ratio in England goalscoring history: a remarkable 18 goals in nine games between 1929 and 1936. And if you didn’t know Sir Stanley Matthews retired from playing First Division football just after his 50th birthday, you do now.

Back to tomorrow’s game now: how do Germany look at the moment?

The Nationalelf have been less than impressive recently. They’ve only won half of their last ten games keeping only two clean sheets in that sequence and they failed to score against Spain and France as well as losing to North Macedonia. A lot of this inconsistency was down to Joachim Loew’s not knowing what his best team was before the finals began and the defeat to the Macedonians only exacerbated that issue. Only Matthias Ginter and Serge Gnabry have started in those last ten games and in total 32 players have been involved since the game against Ukraine last November. That situation seems to have stabilised for this tournament as ten players have started all three games but even given that the number of subs has now been increased, I still thing using eighteen players in just three games is excessive, considering that’s only produced one win.

Germany seem to be at their most effective in attack between 15 minutes and an hour into the game. They’ve scored 68% of their goals in the last the last ten games within this time frame, including all four in their win against Portugal ten days ago. Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Ilkay Gundogan have all scored three goals but so far only Havertz has scored at the Euros and Germany’s leading goalscorer at Euro 2020 is Own Goal with two.

Defensively they are most vulnerable at the start of the first half and especially after a hour has gone: over 40% of the goals they’ve conceded since last November have been in the last fifteen minutes, including Andras Schaefer’s sensational effort for Hungary in the last group game.

I don’t think this is a vintage Germany side at all. It’s Loew’s farewell tour anyway and there was some consternation in the German footballing press when he decided to stay on for this tournament: so far Germany have been outclassed by France, went behind to Portugal before turning in what might be described as a vintage performance against the winners of Euro 2016 and then struggled against a Hungarian side that was only eight minutes away from beating them. However, this makes them unpredictable – a word that cannot usually be used to describe the Germans. It also makes them potentially dangerous than any of the teams we’ve faced so far.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a similar preview for England.

An Englishman, A Scotsman and An Irishman Walk Into A Studio…

Before I get into major issue of this post, I’d like to post some stats.

England have earned precisely four points (or the equivalent) after two games in several competitions in the past:

Winners: 1966 World Cup – including a goalless draw with Uruguay in the opening game that got some less than favourable write ups in the press the following day.

Semi finals: Euro 1996 – including a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the opening game that got some less than favourable reaction in the press the following day.

Quarter finalists: 1954 and 2002 World Cups, Euro 2012

Round of 16: Euro 2016

*1954 and 1966 World Cups: two points per win. Additionally there were only two group games in 1954.

Basically, when seen in the context of last night’s result against Scotland, every time England have won four points from two games in every major tournament since World War II, we’ve qualified for the next round. But if you were watching ITV last night, you’d have thought England had lost. I can understand Graeme Souness being pleased at how Scotland performed and Roy Keane did his best to be neutral but quite frankly Ian Wright was just saying the first thing that came into his head. I know everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I can’t be arsed to listen to post match speculation when it’s as knee jerk as that.

After the draw between Croatia and the Czech Republic at Hampden, the only way Scotland could qualify was by beating either England or Croatia. They failed to beat England and – just like against the Czechs on Monday – failed to score. Now Scotland will have to beat Croatia by two clear goals and hope other results go their way, including a decisive one at Wembley next Tuesday, With Austria and Finland having both already won three points and with Spain and Germany playing today. It’s an uphill struggle for them, but that’s really not our problem is it?

As for having only scored one goal so far, it’s not as if that’s unprecedented either: interestingly though, it’s only the fourth time in 24 tournaments that we’ve *not* conceded a goal in the first two games and the first time since the 2006 World Cup finals (Marcus Allbaeck of Sweden ended that particular run in the epic 2-2 draw in the last game).

As things stand after last night’s game, we’d be travelling to Denmark to meet Slovakia on Monday 28th June but as I mentioned the other day, don’t bank on it. I’m far from downbeat about England, largely because I’ve been a football fan for fifty years and we’ve been in far, far worse situations over that period.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Update: after Monday night’s result, England are through to the next round. With four points and with a game to spare. The record continues.

We’re Back.

Three years, one World Cup semi final and one pandemic later, Euro 2020 is finally underway and a new post is well overdue.

A few weeks ago – when I started planning the resurrection of this blog – I was thinking how nice to have something to look forward to after the last year and a bit we’ve had: one of the main reasons that the Euros could turn out to be a lot of fun basically because it’s a distraction from what’s going on around us in public health terms as well as being an very different way to run a tournament. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the original plan of having multiple hosts was made by Michel Platini, who has gone from international superstar to persona non grata within world football.

As ever, the question is if England are going to win it. The bookies think so, but they always think that and when was the last time you saw a bookie on a bike? We don’t have a particularly good record in the Euros – two losing semi final appearances, the last of which was a quarter of a century ago – and with a recent record that’s not disimilar to two of our group stage opponents, but still better than our northern neighbours, who we meet next Friday.

However, I’d say there are grounds for cautious optimism this time round. The latest FIFA rankings – which won’t be updated until after the tournament – have England in 3rd place in the UEFA table (behind Belgium and France) and 4th in the world. Considering that three of the last five winners of the Euros were in the top five teams in the World before those respective tournaments started, that’s a pretty good standard. The major outlier was Greece (2004) who were roughly at the same level as Hungary are at the moment.

However, the fact that we’re hosting the final – as opposed to being the hosts – is a bit of a problem. In case you needed reminding, we’ve done rather well in tournaments that we’ve hosted, but the Euros haven’t been won by the country that hosted the final since France won in 1984. I think it’s fair to say that home advantage is a bit of a red herring these days – it’s been 23 years since the host won the World Cup – but even so I can’t see England failing to qualify from the group. We did it in both 1966 and 1996 but if we win the group then we hit a considerable hurdle: the prospect of Portugal, Germany or France in the Round of Sixteen.

Admittedly that will be at Wembley, but a more tortuous but possibly easier route to the final might be coming second in the group and giving up home advantage to play in Copenhagen possibly either Sweden or Poland or even trying to be a best third placed team and taking your chances that way. A narrow defeat to Croatia tomorrow wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as long as four points were earned against the Scots and Czechs, However that’s an incredibly risky strategy to attempt and failure to qualify from the group really isn’t an option, especially with fan expectations being possibly more febrile than usual.

And that would have been the end of this post. I was intending to follow up on Monday with my thoughts on Sunday’s game, but as you all know by now, something potentially catastrophic happened in this evening’s game between Denmark and Finland. I was watching with my wife and we both feared the worst when we saw the close ups – which really shouldn’t have been broadcast – of Christian Eriksen clearly in considerable distress. Fortunately, Eriksen was taken to hospital – where he is now stable and recovering – but once again it’s a reminder that life is precious and football is only a game.

Enjoy tomorrow. I think we’ve all deserved it.

A History Of England’s Centurions

Congratulations to Ashley Cole, who will win his 100th England cap this evening when he plays against Brazil in a friendly tonight.

Rather than take the obvious route, I thought we’d celebrate the group of players Cole joins this evening. The most astonishing thing about the Centurions is that it wasn’t until Billy Wright won his 42nd cap in May 1952 that he broke the record for England’s most capped player – Bob Crompton of Blackburn Rovers had held it for almost forty years. Or to put it another way, Crompton’s record was set before the start of the First World War and wasn’t broken until seven years after the Second World War finished.

Another surprise was that I’d assumed that it’d taken Billy Wright longer to win a century of caps because England had played fewer games in his era. Wrong. Billy Wright and David Beckham’s England careers both lasted fourteen years, whilst Bobby Moore won his caps in just twelve. At the other end of the scale, Peter Shilton earned his 125 caps in 19 years – with the vast majority of them coming after he took over from Ray Clemence in 1982.

So here’s a timeline of who, how and when the Centurions reached their milestones.

28th September 1946:  Billy Wright makes his full England debut in a 7-2 win over Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast. Wright’s first international appearance was at the start of the year in an unofficial ‘victory international’ against Belgium to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Bobby Charlton is eight years old, Bobby Moore is five.

19th April 1958: England beat Scotland 4-0 at Hampden Park and Bobby Charlton scores on his England debut. Billy Wright wins his 89th cap in the same game and just under a year later wins his 100th cap in another win against Scotland. This little ditty is number one in the charts:

Peter Shilton is seven years old, Bobby Moore has just celebrated his 17th birthday and is a few months away from making his West Ham debut against Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United. Charlton won’t be playing though. He’s recovering from injuries sustained in the Munich Air disaster, which happened 55 years ago today.

28th May 1959: Billy Wright wins his final cap in an 8-1 win over the USA.

20th May 1962: England beat Peru in Lima in a friendly before the World Cup: Bobby Moore makes his first appearance for England, alongside Bobby Charlton who is winning his 34th cap. Elvis is about to take over at Number One with this song…

11th June 1970: Bobby Charlton makes his 105th and last appearance for England, who are beaten 3-2 by West Germany in the quarter finals of the World Cup in Mexico. ‘Back Home’ has just been deposed at Number One by this song and England won’t qualify for another World Cup Finals tournament for 12 years…dark days indeed.

25th November 1970: Peter Shilton makes his England debut in a friendly against East Germany which England win 3-1. Bobby More wins his 85th cap.

14th February 1973: Bobby Moore wins his 100th cap in a 5-0 win over Scotland. Exactly nine months later, Moore makes his last appearance in an England shirt in a 1-0 defeat to Italy. Earlier that day, Captain Mark Phillips had married Princess Anne.

15th June 1988: Peter Shilton wins his 100th cap in the 3-1 defeat by the Netherlands in the European Championship finals. Just over two years later, Shilton makes his last appearance between the sticks in the 3rd place playoff defeat to Italy in the 1990 World Cup: David Beckham is 15 years old and has already signed schoolboy forms for Manchester United. Ashley Cole is nine.

24th February 1993: Bobby Moore dies aged 51.

3rd September 1994: Billy Wright dies in London aged 70.

1st September 1996: England beat Moldova 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Chisinau and David Beckham makes his England debut. Incredibly, the Spice Girls are number one with ‘Wannabe’.

28th February 2001: England beat Spain 3-0 in a friendly at Villa Park and Ashley Cole wins his first cap. David Beckham is making his 38th appearance but the game is overshadowed by the Selby rail crash.

26th March 2008: David Beckham wins his 100th cap in a 1-0 defeat by France. Eighteen months later Beckham makes his final appearance in an England shirt in a 3-0 win over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier.

It’s highly likely that the next Centurion has probably just finished his tea and is about to watch England v Brazil…


Who will be the next England player to reach a century? Can Frank Lampard get back the squad and win the 6 caps he needs, check the latest odds at, visit the site now to get more information